Estonia’s foreign ministry said Friday it had expelled two Russian diplomats, in the latest incident to strain relations between the small NATO state and Moscow.

“We can confirm that Estonia has expelled two Russian diplomats,” ministry spokeswoman Sandra Kamilova told AFP.

The incident follows a string of spy cases, most recently, the sentencing by a Tallinn court earlier this month of a Russian citizen living in Estonia to five years for spying on behalf of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Moscow considered “this step by Tallinn as provocative and unfounded, and it will not be left without a suitable response”.

It further called it a “hostile act” which will “make bilateral relations even more difficult”.

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The Baltic News Service named the two men as Dmitry Kazennov, the Russia’s consul general in the eastern city of Narva and consul Andrey Surgaev.

Perched on Estonia’s border with Russia, around 90 percent of Narva’s 60,000 residents are ethnic Russian.

Relations between Moscow and Tallinn have been fraught since Estonia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, joining both the EU and NATO in 2004.

NATO is currently deploying four battalions to the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland to reassure its allies spooked by Russia’s frequent military exercises near the region and its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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